Labyrinths and Inner Reflection

Posted by on Sep, Wed, 2019 in Individual Purpose | 0 comments


Yesterday I had the opportunity to walk a labyrinth at a dear friend’s birthday party. A labyrinth is a form of walking meditation; you release on the walk-in, receive in the middle of the circle, and then return from the centre to exit.

My intention was on Abundance. As I slowly walked into the labyrinth and made my first turn, I looked down and saw a 4-leaf clover. I bent down and picked up that sucker. Later as I was talking with another friend who walked in front of me, she shared how she often searched for 4-leaf clovers and never saw it. Clearly, it was for me.

This got me thinking about “signs” that we receive that can open us up to find the right answers and realize the desired potential. Yet sometimes we are so busy with the day-to-day activities that we fail to take time to self-reflect. Other times we might be searching so intensely for the “signs” of which choice to make that we fail to notice them.

While a walking meditation, such as labyrinth walking may seem hokey to you, for me it is a time to move my focus within, listen intently to where I am in the moment, and to be aware of my thoughts and feelings.

Where do you find time to go within?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Yoga, meditation (whether guided on using a breathing practice)
  2. Exercise, walking, gardening
  3. Being in nature, near a body of water
  4. Listening to the birds or a CD of nature sounds
  5. Journaling
  6. Talking to a trusted advisor, or a good friend who is highly skilled at listening
  7. Whatever activity or inactivity that calms your mind, allows you to reflect on your inner thoughts, desires, and needs

Whichever of these work for you, make sure that you schedule them daily or regularly. I’m lucky that I live with my 4-legged companion that regularly reminds me of the need for a good walk.

Also, take time to notice symbols, inner thoughts & sensations that you are experiencing – do they in some way relate to what you need at the moment? What is their significance for you?
Taking time to notice the 4-leaf clovers or “to stop and smell the roses” allows you to reduce your stress, get in touch with your inner self so that you are more open to seeing the “signs” within you…and even some that the universe is providing to you. And, ultimately will assist you in making even better decisions.

What’s Making You Cranky?

Posted by on Sep, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

Boss scolds businessman. Conflicts at work. Pop art retro vector illustration

We’ve all had those days when we have felt like a serious firefighter dousing “flames” of crisis through the day. Running from meeting to meeting and situation to situation making decisions right, left, and centre.

Then by the time you got to your last meeting of the day, you found yourself being more abrupt and short than your norm aka cranky.

Roy F. Baumeister coined the phrase “Ego Depletion” to explain this phenomenon. He felt we all have a limited resource to self-regulate that becomes depleted throughout the day.

Basically, the various acts that are required to engage in self-regulation such as resisting the urge to say something, making trade-offs, constraining our desires, adhering to other’s rules wear down your ability to control yourself at a later time. While some of his research has been challenged, I think it’s still a worthy concept to consider.

Somedays, it’s much more subtle. For example, you’ve been restraining yourself in meetings to enable others to give their feedback when you really wanted to just challenge the discussion, or you have been dieting and resisting the temptations at the office potluck, then you find yourself making less than optimal decisions by the afternoon.

This depletion is a silent enemy. That erodes your self-control hour by hour. And because you don’t have “symptoms” like being tired from stress, it can be easy to miss that you are experiencing it. Until you’ve done something that isn’t normally you or you make a bad decision late in the day.

Marshall Goldsmith suggests that tracking your days in terms of what depletes you is a helpful exercise. What is happening on those days that you snap or engage in unhelpful behaviour?

Once you can isolate the factors that impact you then you are able to create some structure or a plan to ensure that you are less likely to become depleted.

For example, making important decisions earlier in the day is more likely to result in better decision making. If you are skipping meals, engaging in meal planning may be helpful. If you are tired and stressed by the demands of meeting client needs, schedule in a break. If you are constantly looking for documents on your desk, get in the practice of cleaning your desk off every day before leaving the office or each morning before turning on your laptop.

Take time to understand what is depleting you and how you might be able to create a system or structure that assists you to manage those aspects of your day are likely to result in less crankiness and greater success at work, and in life.

You’re Fired … Or Not?

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2019 in Communication | 0 comments

Boss threatens finger to businessman. Pop art retro vector illustration


I was coaching an Executive Director who was contemplating letting a staff member go, but when asked, the person had not been given the candid feedback that could enable them to make effective change. This is not fair to the individual, the team, or the organization. Let’s slow down here and look at some steps to take.

Here are some things to ask yourself before you let someone go:

1. Have you spoken to them about the details of your concerns?

If not, it’s past time to do so. Do a check-in with yourself to determine your judgments, biases, and assumptions prior to the meeting. How are you feeling? What is causing this reaction in you? Talking with a trusted advisor can be very beneficial to help you get through your preconceived notions to enable the individual space to accept the feedback. Set a time and give that feedback. You are gifting them an opportunity for growth.

2. Now that you have spoken to them in a caring and candid manner, how did they respond?

Were they open to growth and asked for more information? Or were they closed and defensive while not open to owning or even considering their role in the situation? Co-create an action plan to implement the needed changes with a timeline. Are they taking initiative to make the necessary changes, or not?

3. What have you put in place to support their behaviour change?

Do you need coaching to assist you in the process of mentoring them? Do they require coaching (internal or external) to understand the situation and make changes?

4. What has the impact on the team been?

How are others responding to their behaviour? Have the problematic behaviours undermined the trust in the team? Or is trust still sufficient that other team members will be open to accepting behaviour change?

5. In cases where the team has been impacted significantly, ask the individual own their behaviour and share their plan to make a change with the team. 

Not every detail needs to be shared, yet the person must own their behaviour. Team members may need to give space for slight setbacks. Owning the challenging behaviour and making a commitment to change is helpful for re-establishing respect and trust within the team.

If they have bullied others and their behaviour may have undermined trust to the point of no return. Everyone deserves respect and dignity within their workplace – and as an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team is treated with respect. Don’t let one person’s aggressive behaviour result in losing great team members to another organization.

6. Monitor the situation and have regular check-ins to ensure that progress is being made. 

Hold yourself responsible to continue to meet with the individual, be accountable to the action plan, and offer ongoing feedback to the individual. And hold them accountable to the plan you both made.

Contemplating dismissing a person is stressful. Ensure that you have taken the appropriate steps to give the person a real opportunity to make shifts in their behaviour. You may find that the individual grows once they’ve had the support and can become a highly productive and respected team member.

And, if they are unable to engage fully in the behaviour plan to make the needed changes, then you need to put the needs of your organization first and terminate their employment.

Personal Growth as Route to Great Client Care

Posted by on Aug, Wed, 2019 in Motivation, My work | 0 comments

Inspire Cloud Concept

At a party, I asked a teacher if she was planning to take any courses this summer. The response was, “I’m at the top of my pay grid” – I was shocked!

As a professional, I pride myself on continuous learning and improving my craft through books, courses and I expect others do the same. Some professionals, like engineers, doctors, social workers, and many others, require annual continuing education credits to maintain their professional status. And coming from that history, have simply sustained the practice.

And who is responsible for this training? I think it’s a shared responsibility.

Certainly, when I was employed by non-profits, money was a concern and that limited their ability to offer as much training as they would have liked. And many organizations go to great lengths to ensure the best possible level of training they can offer their employees. I happily went to conferences and training –when costs were shared, and even when it was on my dime. And I valued every moment of the training.

What are your team members expecting?
Is it a requirement of their profession to have continuous upgrading?
Is this discussion part of an annual review process?
Do you expect employees to engage in training and development opportunities in your organization and on their own?
Are you able to cost-share by covering some of the expenses, or perhaps by giving them paid time off to attend?

Hopefully, training is not linked to the pay grid – but is linked instead to the mission of your organization and the individuals work. Let’s make it about offering the very best client service!

Here are some ideas to ensure continuous education and development of your team:

  • Create a short survey to ask your team members what they want to learn. What areas do they want to develop within themselves? Then seek resources to fill that need.
  • Hire a trainer that has expertise in those areas.
  • If your budget is really tight, you might see who in your team is knowledgeable in the desired areas and if they would be willing to do a lunch and learn.
  • You might ask one of your team members who place a high value on learning to research and present the material.
  • Consider having a book club where you read a book every month and discuss it (perhaps over a potluck lunch or have lunch provided if you have the budget for it).
  • Encourage your staff to spend 1 hour per week researching podcasts and online videos that focus on self-improvement and/or a key area in your work.
  • Look at cost-sharing opportunities – perhaps mileage, time off, or shared enrollment.
  • Have those that go out for training share what they learned – either in a presentation or at a team meeting.

I have a strong bias for the need for continuous growth and development (and a passion for the same).

How might you encourage your staff to engage in the lifelong pursuit of learning? It will truly be of benefit to their career, your organization, and your clients.

P.S. You can check out to see the training and coaching opportunities that I offer.

Judgmental Leadership Stunts Growth and Development

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Leadership, Team Dynamics | 0 comments

July 31 judgment

Lately, I’ve been finding the amount of judgment in the online world overwhelming. Comments about certain political leaders which are as critical and condemning as the leader’s original behaviour was.

Judgment creates blocked energy which invites more criticism, less compassion and diminishes opportunities for change. Judgment and the negativity that goes along with it becomes a dark shadow that prevents growth.

In the research of Rosenthal and Jacobson, teachers were falsely told that some of their students had been identified as potential high achievers and that they would excel during the school year. These students were chosen at random regardless of their previous scholastic abilities. At the end of the school year, the students who were identified as “high achievers” were more likely to make the greatest gains in the classroom.

As Bradley Busch, Psychologist writes,

No one rises to low expectations. Having high expectations of each and every student and then providing the necessary support needed to achieve that level seem key to all students achieving to their best ability.”

What happens when these judgments become a daily experience in your non-profit? Or when you judge a team member or team as incapable?

That judgment creates a bias for you that is transferred to the employee and team. The team member will experience this energy through their mirror neurons as tension and discomfort. It may also be experienced through the words that you choose to speak, your body language or your para-verbal communication (the tone, and volume of your words). Whichever way, it will impact your team member in a manner that can prevent growth and development.

For example, one client that I worked with the Senior Leadership team repeatedly said: “the employees don’t have the capacity to do the level of work that we require.” This statement was fully believed by the leadership team. And almost daily, they saw evidence of it (now of course, subconsciously they were seeking the evidence that validated their perception).

When we stopped and looked at the successes and awards that the organization had achieved, the leadership team was in awe! With their bias, they had been unable to fully acknowledge the incredible abilities that lay within their team members. Once the leadership team was able to acknowledge the strengths in the team, the results swiftly began to shift from discouragement to encouragement and success.

Take a look at how you are placing judgments on yourself and your team members. What might you not be seeing or noticing that offers the opportunity for encouragement and growth?

Remove those judgments from yourself and your team, then you can start to grow and they can develop into their potential. Then celebrate those wins!

Getting Agency Culture Right!

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Team Dynamics | 0 comments

July 17 - getting culture righ


When two organizations have a similar structure, funding models and approximately the same number of employees, why does one win awards for being an employer of choice and the other struggles with conflict, turnover and low employee satisfaction?

In my experience, it has to do with three factors. One is the attitude of upper management towards their staff, and the second is how much they hold their staff accountable to both their strengths and areas for growth. The final factor is clear communication throughout the agency.

Let me share some insights from, Brantwood Community Services, a winner of the Canadian Non-Profit of Choice award for 2 years running.

On the surface, things look the same as other organizations as they wait for the government announcement to know how much their funding is being cut this year. They have a mission, vision and values statement. They have staff coming to work every day.

However, when you look below the surface, you will find an incredibly supportive, respectful and highly engaged team of individuals who deliver high-quality services to their clients every day.

On their website, they sum up their Mission, Vision, and Values as “Actively supporting new possibilities for people that lead to a fulfilled life.”

Jo-Anne Flood, Executive Director ensures that this statement is central to all their actions for both clients and staff! How does she bring this is life each day?

  1. Using recognition through all levels of the organization. That means that all members of staff are engaged in recognizing one another, as well as their managers all the way to the Executive Director. Team members are active in recognizing one another for a great attitude, being supportive and welcoming and doing a stellar job!Whether it is being shared in the weekly newsletter, on social media or on a private basis, employees are celebrated for their contribution throughout the year. Efforts are made to include personal preferences in the way that recognition is shared so each individual is rewarded in a manner that suits their comfort and personality. Of course, they also set aside 2 days for a staff recognition party every summer as well! Every employee is able to attend one of the two days of food, fun, and gratitude for their role in making Brantwood a remarkable place to work!
  2. Every staff member has a face-to-face meeting with their direct supervisor on a regular, scheduled basis. The employee’s agenda is discussed first. This is an opportunity to brainstorm solutions to challenges, to acknowledge and celebrate successes and to focus on their career goals. Any concerns are addressed within these meetings. This level of accountability ensures that all employees are succeeding in their roles and supported in their ongoing professional development.
  3. Communication – A weekly newsletter, sent out personally by Jo-Anne, is a compilation of sharing latest news impacting the agency an all levels, recognizing staff members who have gone the extra mile that week, and keeping staff members informed of what’s happening in all service areas of the organization. It is emailed weekly to every staff member and is highly valued by staff as they are kept informed, even relief and part-time staff. Team members comment regularly that this communication helps them to feel connected to the organization.

This commitment to staff growth, development, mixed with support, enables their employees to rate the organization 79.6%. And unlike most employee engagement surveys, has improved over last year by 4.6%!

Let’s Keep the Ball Rolling this Summer!

Posted by on Jul, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

sea, beach

It is official, summer is really here!

While we talk about spring fever, we don’t have a name for the challenges that can arise when the warm weather, beaches and outdoors call us during these summer months yet they often impact how we work.

We all know that more vacation time is taken in the summer months and that projects and deliverables still need to happen, so here are a few tips on managing those projects and keeping that ball rolling forward:

  1. Ensure that time is taken to communicate all aspects of the current deliverables with all team members as they will need to be able to pitch hit for one another throughout this season. Having an open dialogue can reduce stress and prevent frustration for both your team members and your clients.
  2. Create accountability partners or “vacation partners” within the team. Have these individuals update specific aspects of ongoing projects with potential calls/issues that may arise during their vacation time. Be sure to include a list of names of all clients, phone numbers and email addresses including the best way to reach each client.
  3. Encourage staff to add a short sentence of their upcoming vacation and who will cover for them in their email signature leading up to their time off. This will make it easier for your clients to anticipate and plan for your team member’s vacation knowing that someone else can be contacted as needed.
  4. Include their vacation partner’s name and extension in their outgoing email message. Include the ability to press # with the extension number now if your phone system allows.
  5. Have each team member forward client emails that may be of assistance should their partner be contacted during their vacation. Consider forwarding emails to the vacation partner from specific clients during the time off.

These tips can help reduce your team member’s stress level as they keep those balls in the air. And when your vacation comes up, you can focus on keeping the beach ball up in the air feeling more relaxed knowing you’ve got things covered at work.

It’s Time to Recharge

Posted by on Jun, Wed, 2019 in Leadership | 0 comments

cave, retreating

I’ve retreated.

Not in an avoidant way, with the realization that I need to refuel, recharge and then come back from a better place. As I write this, I have sought refuge at my cottage to recharge my spirit that has been challenged by life these past few months.

Have you ever felt like the energizer bunny, keep going and going while telling yourself you’d take my “me time” later? Well, I fell into this trap – after all, I had things to do, clients to help and work that must be done. Yet, my batteries had drained to low.

As a non-profit leader, how often do you keep pressing on without taking time out?

When you are frazzled and worn down, it gives a message to your team members to do the same. Before you know it, your agency will be tired, stressed and the ability to deliver stellar service compromised.

Where can you find refuge for your spirit?

What self-care activity have you been secretly craving for that you can indulge yourself with?

Give yourself permission to do so. If your non-profit has been swamped and working through a particularly stressful time, how might you “gift” each employee with some time to recharge?

Could you give an hour off to each person to do whatever they liked? Organize a yoga class or other self-care activity at work? What if you held a personal care challenge where you get people to share what they did that allowed them to recharge?

We all need to come first in our lives. Like in the airplane, you must first put your oxygen mask on before attempting to help others.

I challenge you to find one thing you would really enjoy and just do it because you deserve to be pampered and recharged – savour it fully. Then plan and repeat.

Urrgh! Not THAT Again?!

Posted by on Jun, Wed, 2019 in Motivation | 0 comments

emotional man listening his inner voice over grey background

We all have them. Those annoying things we tolerate from ourselves and others. They have a way of simmering on low in the background of our minds, creating a low-level disturbance. Whether it’s your desk that’s cluttered, your computer has a glitch, or it’s someone else’s behaviour.

Do you pride yourself on being a tolerant person?

Do you tolerate your own bad habits?

Do you tolerate less than acceptable behaviour from your direct reports or colleagues?

The biggest challenge with these “tolerations” is that it creates stress in our life that is actually avoidable. As a leader, you can have many tolerations of less than optimal or poor behaviour in your staff and you are letting that slide, you’re more likely to become reactive in your communication.

So how do we take the first step to end this?

  1. On a piece of paper that won’t get lost, create three columns: From Myself, Work Related and Home.
  2. Now write out those things that you think “I’ve got to find the time to …” or “not that again” or simply things that you have become aware of as they relate to each of the 3 categories.
  3. Now put a checkmark beside those things that can easily be dealt with. And schedule a time to address them. For example, it will take how long to clean off the desk? To speak with a direct report about the ongoing behaviour and its impact on your organization?
  4. Take action. Sometimes, you’ll need to have conversations, make yourself accountable to following through on shifting a behaviour because you now recognize it as less than acceptable.
  5. Celebrate every step you take along the path.
  6. Every so often, revisit these steps. The goal is to reduce the tolerations to zero – and it is an ongoing process.
  7. When new things arise that are minor annoyances, deal with them so they won’t later be added to your list. Dealing with things quickly in a calm manner can make a significant impact to lower your stress levels.

Those tolerations are an invitation for stress. So shift into awareness and get into action so that you can shift from Urrgh!! to less stressed and even more of your awesome.

How to Perform a Self-Leadership Audit

Posted by on May, Wed, 2019 in Leadership | 0 comments

Honesty and related 3d words including sincerity, believability,

As a leader, what are you trying to achieve?

What is important to you?

What behaviours do you see that benefit yourself and others you lead?

These are all very valuable questions to ask yourself on a regular basis. Having a scheduled self-review process you can champion your wins and set goals for your challenges.

So here is a self-audit process that you can use:

  1. Create a specific list of skills and abilities that you believe leaders need to possess to be successful. If you are stuck, check out the leadership books on your bookshelf. You might need to dust them off and look at the table of contents or read a relevant chapter. Or ask your team members what the most valued aspects of a leader are for them. You will want to consider areas such as communication, respect, interpersonal relationships and so on.
  2. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 where you see yourself in this area. Now, don’t be like many leaders who exclude 10 in performance appraisals because we can never be perfect. While perfectionism is a problem given our humanness, we can rate a 10 when we are really rocking a category. Give yourself and others credit when it is due.
  3. Next, write a plan of your areas for improvement in all aspects that you’ve listed. Then choose 1 area that has the highest priority and begin to write out specific steps you will take including books and resources that you’ll use as you take action on these goals.
  4. Go to your calendar and schedule appointments to work on these goals. Set out a minimum of 3 to 5 hours each week to make this area a high priority. While you might need to have several smaller chunks of time scheduled during the week, you definitely need to take the time to integrate and shift that behaviour.
  5. Now consider what you need that you do not currently have to support these goals. Do you need more knowledge such as a book or a course? Do you need to better understand how to shift this area? Perhaps you need an accountability partner. Do you need a mentor or coach?
  6. In one month’s time, re-evaluate all the areas again and pick the highest priority. You are likely to find that focusing on one area will improve other areas as well. For example, if listening is the skill you are working on, then it is quite likely that you will notice an improvement in your communication skills. Make sure you take the time to celebrate your progress! Then repeat the process for that month.

Audits and plans are only useful if they are following and administered on a regular basis. Hit and miss efforts will result in hit and miss results. Commit to yourself to make these shifts as they will make your life more enjoyable and rewarding.

You deserve to be a priority and your personal development is important to a feeling of success and accomplishment.